Sextortion is defined by the FBI as “a crime involving adults coercing teens into sending explicit images online, then threatening to distribute your photos to friends, family, coworkers, and school if you don’t provide them with money or additional explicit content.”
In the Magic Valley and communities across the world, we are seeing significant increases in these types of cases. Between the years of 2015 and 2018, CyberTipline received 5,017 of these reports. In 2021, there were over 18,000 cases reported that resulted in over 13.6 million dollars in losses, averaging over $800 per case reported.
The ever-evolving technological age only increases the opportunities for our teenagers and young adults to be targeted. Scammers utilize apps, gaming, dating apps, and social media platforms to connect with their victims. They create multiple profiles with varying locations, ages, and interests; then locate teens that appear to be compatible with this profile. They add our young people and slowly begin to communicate to gain trust and appear legitimate, before eventually seeming interested in a relationship. At this time, they will often send an explicit photo and ask for one in return. If one is sent back, the game is over, and threats immediately begin. They will demand money or additional explicit content in exchange for silence. Using research based on the teenager’s profile, the scammer will find additional people you know and threaten to share your conversations and photos with these people.
For example, if a teen has a place of employment, school, or family members listed on their profile the scammer will find others that work at that place, attend that school, or screenshot profiles of their family members to show they have a legitimate threat.
This often scares the teen or young adult and results in them sending money or additional explicit photos and videos. There are multiple cases in the United States and abroad in which teens have chosen to take their own lives instead of turn to their parents, police, or trusted adults for help.
Talk to your teens about online safety and their relationships. Maintain healthy communication with your child about difficult subjects, so that they will come to you should a situation like this ever occur.
Protect yourself online and never send explicit photos of yourself. If this is happening to you, please tell your parents, a trusted adult, or contact the police. You are not in trouble. You are not alone. There is help.
While the most common victims are young males, this crime has victims across all ages and genders. Please visit the links below to learn more about Sextortion, read about real life examples, how to be safe online, and what to do if you are targeted by this crime.
For more information, please visit the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s resource page or contact the Twin Falls Police Department at (208) 735-7200.